Book review: The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus

by Paul N. Anderson


A boring looking book, eh? Don’t let the blandness of the cover fool you. This skinny little book may be one of the most important theological efforts of the last five years. My next book will be about the Gospel of John, and Anderson’s book contributed significantly to my research.

John’s Gospel differs so significantly from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) that the question arises often between scholars: Do we trust John, or the other three? In one simple example, the Synoptics present a one-year ministry of Jesus, whereas John indicates at least a three-year ministry. But since John’s Gospel reads so mystically (a more acceptable word may be “spiritually”), and since he seems outnumbered 3-to-1, most scholars through the centuries have given it little weight. It gets relegated to the pulpit as the “fourth Gospel,” as if it didn’t deserve a name.

Recent archaeological discoveries, however, have proven John’s Gospel spot-on in a number of its claims. John is also the one Gospel that claims to be an eye-witness account. Anderson jumps on the bandwagon of recent scholarship and presents his argument that this Gospel is equally historically accurate, and as important to understanding the life of Jesus, as the Synoptics. And, of course, I believe he is right.

The casual reader may find little to hold their interest in this book, but the scholar and the pastor cannot afford to be without it.